The best of British

This year’s Brits List proves that UK expatriates are punching above their weight when it comes to developing the UAE’s economy

Let’s be honest, Brits don’t generally have a good reputation abroad do they? Ask most people what they would associate British expats around the world with, and you will mostly hear negative (unprintable) words. Only five years ago, as thousands of British expats fled Dubai during the height of the recession, I would argue the reputation was well deserved. Over spending, over indulging and over the top (I’m being polite here).

But our countdown of the UAE’s 50 most influential Brits shows that there is also another, far more impressive side to the 100,000 plus British community residing in this part of the world: staggering success. Putting together this list turned out to be much harder work than we estimated, as there were a good deal more names that deserve recognition than the 50 we have published.

Nevertheless, it is worth highlighting a few within the list, starting with the very top — Sir Tim Clark, president of Emirates Airline, who takes the number one slot. Can anyone argue with this choice? Definitely not. Just two weeks ago the airline reported an incredible set of figures with profits up by 42.5 percent to $887m in the last financial year. Sir Tim has been at the heart of Emirates since the airline was founded back in 1985. I have met him on a few occasions and he typifies the very best of British: straight talking, focused, determined, and just bloody good at what he does. Without him and another Brit on our list, Sir Maurice Flanagan, I wonder where Emirates would be today? The answer is probably nowhere near where it is now.

As it turns out, the Brits appear to be taking over the UAE’s key transport positions. Paul Griffiths, as CEO of Dubai Airports, has helped create one of the biggest and best airports in the world (Dubai International) and now is doing it all over again at Al Maktoum International. Doing an equally impressive job down the road at Abu Dhabi Airports  is Tony Douglas, another Brit.

When it comes to banking and finance, again no shortage of British stars. The UAE’s biggest bank, National Bank of Abu Dhabi, is run by Alex Thursby. You guessed it… another Brit. The registrar of the DIFC Courts is Mark Beer, who rightly got an OBE in the last honours list. When it comes to media, there’s the very British Sam Barnett who heads up media giant MBC. Likewise, the dynamic boss of Starcom MediaVest Group John Antoniades.

There is a good case to be made that the two most respected property experts in this town are British, in the shape of Nick Maclean at CBRE and Alan Robertson at JLL. (Were Ryan Mahoney British, he too would join this category).

But it isn’t all about big business. The work being undertaken by the Emirates Foundation for Youth Development is truly inspiring and vital for the future of this country. Running the show is a Brit, Clare Woodcraft-Scott. My own favourite is Lucy Bruce, who established Harmony House, a day-shelter for destitute children in India. Anyone who has met her and tells you they are not hugely impressed is either  lying or jealous.

Statistics on exactly how many Brits are in the UAE tends to vary a lot depending on who you ask. The embassy suggests 100,000 — other experts put the figure nearer 240,000. The only thing everyone agrees on is that more and more Brits are coming to the UAE. When you look at our top 50, you can see why.

Click here to view the full list

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Posted by: WHJ

Anil. You would've been well advised to have restricted your description to British expats in Dubai only. What I'm about to say may draw ire from some British readers who have illusions about themselves, but your opening paragraph is actually not entirely inaccurate. Some of the British expats who come here are..well.. riff-raff. They behave abominably when they "overindulge", they are underqualified (by their own admission), they show little respect to the culture here and have no qualms about disparaging it, and they express nothing but ingratitude to the city that has given them a better life than they could've ever had in their own cities. So, yes, I'm afraid their reputation is not so good.
However, your article gives credence to the claim that not all British expats are the same. To the ones hailed in AB's list of influential Brits, we tip our hats. I just wish the rest of them would follow their example.
Let the games begin...

Posted by: Doug

@WHJ - ah, now we're getting into semantics. My experiences of both the UK and Dubai (so yes, it's just anecdotal) suggests that the British here drink far more than they ever would back at home, which then leads to a corresponding increase in very bad behaviour.

Most Brits back in the UK either couldn't afford to drink the vast quantities that people get through here, and adding to that is an overwhelming sense of entitlement. Back in the UK, people are more inclined to have their social filters on. Here, they all think they're special little flowers so they can do what they like. The way people treat each other out here is appalling.

Posted by: WHJ

@Doug. My comment was actually to address your following statement: "...which possibly accounts for why many Brits here behave worse than they ever would back at home". You see, I disagree that they behave here worse than they would in the UK, I think they behave just as bad, here and back home, because simply that's the kind of behaviour they know and were bred on.
Dubai, with its promise of a better life, attracts people from all walks of life. Unfortunately, yes, some end up in positions they do not deserve, but many, as evidenced by AB's article, are worthy of the posts they hold and are making significant contributions. Undeserving people from all nationalities are found in every fast-developing city, and, most probably, if they are unable to adapt and improve they do not survive and are booted out soon enough. If that weren't the case here, Dubai would not have achieved its highly acclaimed status.

Posted by: MT3

For international companies, places like Dubai are great proving grounds for rising stars. In the industry I work it is increasingly advantageous to hit the 5 key regions at some point in your career and currently your first serious managerial post (country head/C Level) will most likely come in the Middle East or Latam - smaller and less impact if you fail; the proving grounds. For that reason you're likely to see the stars of the future as well as the guys who don't make the grade. Competition for these jobs is fierce and no-one is looking for a premium - tax-free status is enough. The problem is that not many hang around once they've proved themselves because the bigger roles and route to the top are elsewhere. As the list proves, there are honourable exceptions.

Posted by: Doug

@WHJ - yes, that was my entire point! As I said, Dubai has a tendancy to attract the under-qualified and under-educated. Those people are then told they are brilliant and amazing, develop a massive ego, and then act accordingly.

So in other words, the people coming to Dubai from Britain tend to be the sort of people who definitely should not have their egos massaged precisely because they then start thinking they are entitled to behave as they like with no consequence for others. And then their behaviours are rarely challenged. A sense of entitlement is a terrible thing for some people.

Posted by: WHJ

@Doug. I find it difficult to believe that one's disposition changes fron one city to another. In fact, the very reason why they behave the way I described is because they were bred on certain social behaviour that is considered normal or acceptable in their country of origin. Man is a creature of habit, and it is their habits that they bring with them.

Posted by: sandra owen

I agree with Chalky6766 in his summation of the best of British. it seems that just because one holds a position of power, all those underlings like myself are passed over. I have been in the Emirates for 31 years, 23 of which I have had a business which I feel has contributed enormously to the British presence and the UAE- but alas I am not in a position of power - but it still hurts to be overlooked.

Posted by: Geko

Too much for a journalist to categorise and write off a community... Wise enough to be judgemental???? wow possibly a cheap publicity :(

Posted by: Chalky6766

So judging from your frankly insulting opening paragraphs anyone that is not within the heralded confines of these ?Top 50? are the ones deserved of unprintable scorn from those that ?suffer? them overseas. So thousands left did they in a biblical tidal wave of chattering over spending and indulging British miscreants, many more from other countries also did the same. Your article is quite frankly dreadful and ill informed, perhaps next time ask more than a few people about Brits abroad then perhaps you will have a more rounded viewpoint. In the meantime go and find something challenging to write about, if you are able to.

Posted by: Steven D Smith

Really? In what universe is it legitimate to describe a whole nation like this? "I would argue the reputation was well deserved. " Not a very good impression to be honest, despite its other content. I can't imagine the outcry were I to write something similar about people from the UAE. Not a site I would want to visit again thank you.

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